It is well-established that yoga and meditation provide numerous health benefits. In previous blog posts, we have discussed the importance of lifestyle modifications to the integrative approach to kidney health, including stress management, sleep, and exercise. In this blog, we will detail the benefits of yoga and meditation for kidney health.


Yoga and Meditation for Kidney Health

Yoga and meditation are both considered mind-body interventions which the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health defines as “a range of procedures or techniques focusing primarily on the connections between the mind, body and behavior and their resultant effects on one’s health”.

Yoga, which is said to have originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, literally means “union” and is a practice that aims to balance and harmonize the mind, body, and emotions. Various styles of yoga include regulated breathing techniques (pranayama), physical postures (asanas), hand gestures (mudras), yogic relaxation (yoga nidra), and more. Meditation encompasses several techniques that are used to influence the mind through mechanisms in the parasympathetic nervous system to bring about calm and relaxation.

Both yoga and meditation have been documented to have measurable positive impact on various chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and hypertension, two disease states that are major risk factors for the development of kidney disease. We’ll look at the research supporting the benefits of both for kidney health.



Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Kidney Health

Benefits of Yoga for Kidney Health

One study looked at the effects of a 6-month yoga program on renal function and quality of life in patients with chronic kidney disease. After 6 months, the yoga group saw a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood urea and serum creatinine levels, and significant improvement in quality of life. Furthermore, subjects in the yoga group had reduced      need for dialysis than the control group although not statistically significant.

Another study looked at the effects of a 12-week yoga-based exercise program in hemodialysis patients. Significant improvements were seen for many of the variables measured including pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, along with significant reductions in creatinine, blood urea, alkaline phosphatase, cholesterol, erythrocyte and hematocrit count.
Although the exact mechanism for many of the benefits of yoga have not been completely understood, they include:



Benefits of Meditation for Kidney Health

In a study of 15 African American males with CKD and high blood pressure, there was a significantly greater reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressures, mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and muscle sympathetic nerve activity during mindfulness meditation compared with the control.
Those with end-stage renal disease as well as mild CKD have been shown in multiple studies to have chronic activation and elevation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Therefore, using a non-invasive, safe therapeutic intervention such as meditation to lower SNS activity in those with renal disease may mitigate long-term consequences.
One type of mindfulness meditation technique studied in kidney patients is called Benson’s relaxation technique which consists of “eye closing, muscle relaxation, breathing awareness, breathing out stating a word, and returning to the “word” when participants’ thoughts are distracted”. This technique has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety, depression, and improve sleep quality as well as improve quality of life in patients undergoing hemodialysis.
Benefits of meditation for those with kidney disease include:




The Bottom Line

Research has demonstrated that yoga and meditation greatly improve measurable health outcomes and quality of life in those with kidney disease or those looking to protect their kidney health. Both modalities are generally safe for most people, but it’s best to consult your physician before initiating any exercise program including a yoga routine. When working with a clinician trained in Integrative or Functional Medicine, they will often suggest incorporating some type of mind-body intervention as part of your holistic therapeutic plan.